Volume 6   Number 2     Fall 2012

E-Mail as an Arena for Authoring a Dialogical Self Among Gifted Young Adolescents: A Qualitative Study

Lisette Dillon
Queensland University of Technology (Brisbane, Australia)
pp. 1-33

ABSTRACT: This paper describes a qualitative study that investigated young adolescents’ self-constructions within the context of online (email) communication. Drawing from dialogical perspectives of self as multiply-situated and complex phenomena, the study focused on the everyday narratives of individual young adolescents interpreted as different “I” voices. With the assumption that computer mediation offers cultural relevance and empowerment to young adolescents, techniques of personal journal writing were used in combination with email as an alternative to face-to-face methods. Twelve participants aged 10 to 14 years were recruited online and by word-of-mouth with an invitation to write freely about their lives over a six month period in a participant-led email journal project. The role of the researcher was to develop a supportive voice of listener/responder that was intended to facilitate the emergence of participants’ own ‘self’ voices within an interactive space for relatively autonomous self-expression. Data as email texts were analysed using a close listening method that synchronised with the theory by revealing multi-layered patterns and shifts of voices in order to give a nuanced understanding of participants’ self and other evaluations. The paper shows that narrative methods used online and in concert with dialogical concepts have potential to heighten self-reflection and strengthen agency as a means to access rich and nuanced data from young adolescent individuals. The study’s findings contribute to a growing interest in the use of dialogical concepts to explore the ways people engage in active meaning-making while embedded in their specific social and cultural environments.

KEYWORDS: Dialogical Self, narrative methods, authoring, gifted young adolescents, email